Chardonnay is the true noble white wine grape of the world. It is clearly the most popular white wine consumed throughout the world. Chardonnay is grown wherever wine is produced, throughout Europe, to Oceania, to France, California, Oregon, Washington, South America, South Africa, and Asia. There are over 400,000 acres of Chardonnay planted worldwide. This is second only to Airen among white grapes and more than many red varieties. Several ampelographers have tried to trace the origins of Chardonnay to France, to the Middle East (Lebanon & Syria), and to Cyprus as an indigenous vine. Modern DNA evidence now supports that Chardonnay is a cross between Pinot and Gouais Blanc. It is believed that the Romans brought Gouais Blanc from the Balkans to Eastern France. The local peasants then cultivated Gouais Blanc, and it quickly interbred with the Pinot Blanc which had been planted by the French aristocracy.
As of 2021, there are now 80 different clonal varieties of Chardonnay. Several other notable grapes have also been propagated from Chardonnay such as Aligote, Auxerrois, Beaunoir, Gamay Noir, Melon, Peurion, Roublot and Sacy to name a few. Chardonnay is also a terroir driven grape. Cooler climates, such as Burgundy, Champagne and Oregon, produce leaner, crisper, higher acid wines, whereas warmer climates, such as Australia or California bring out more of the honey and tropical fruit flavors. Chardonnay seems to adapt to most soils, however, it appears to like limestone, chalk, and clay based soils the best. Stylistically, Chardonnay is used to make the famed White Burgundy, Champagne and Chablis wines as well as the oaky, California, New World wine. The Chardonnay spectrum grew immensely when Chateau Montelena defeated the top French White Burgundies at the famous Paris tasting of 1976. Chardonnay was off and running in the United States, and its popularity skyrocketed into becoming the most popular white wine in the world.
The two main decisions a winemaker must make with Chardonnay are whether or not to use malolactic fermentation and how much oak exposure for the wine. Chardonnay that has not gone through malolactic fermentation and has limited oak exposure will taste like green apple, pear, and lemon, and have more steely, mineral and acidic notes. To the contrary, Chardonnay that completes malolactic fermentation and ages on the lees in an oak barrel will produce a nutty, buttery, almost creamy wine that has flavors of caramel, smoke, coconut, and vanilla. Chardonnay is not an aromatic wine like Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer or Viognier, and styles of winemaking are regional. Due to a wide range of styles, Chardonnay pairs well with a variety of foods. Chicken, turkey, fish, seafood and even heavier or spicy pairings will not overpower Chardonnay. The popularity of Chardonnay has created somewhat of a backlash over the years, as it became the fashionable, white wine of the 20th century. Occasionally, people will find the new white wine of the year when they are looking for the “ABC-anything but Chardonnay” alternative, but they always manage to comeback to what they’re comfortable with…….a cool glass of “Chard.” To this day, Chardonnay consumption dwarfs the other white wines of the world.
Oswego Hills Chardonnay
Our grapes are sourced from a warm, southwest facing, rocky hillside just south of Red Mountain, Washington. Our goal is to create a full-bodied wine characteristic of the nutty, creamy, smoky and vanilla tones expressed in our fruit. Primary and malolactic fermentation took place slowly in 100% new French Oak sourced from Chatillon and Fontainebleau. Battonage, the stirring of the lees, occurred monthly to allow more pineapple and tropical fruit flavors to extract in the wine. This wine differs significantly from our other whites since they are solely produced in stainless steel. If you are looking for a hardier alternative with less acid and a rich finish, try pairing our Chardonnay with buttered scallops, Dungeness crab, creamy pastas, or roasted chicken. Chardonnay is flexible. It can be a stand-alone wine or a wonderful compliment to any meal.